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Kids Day a Roaring Success

In conference rooms, on lawns, and across labs and shops, children fiddled with lenses and lasers, hunted for buried shark teeth, and launched balls from trebuchets yesterday at SLAC's 5th Annual Kids Day.

"It was a good day," said event co-organizer Barry Webb. "We didn't lose anybody."

This year's event had 18 workshops led by SLAC employees. Divided into two age groups, the children took part in a wide variety of activities that included: cryogenics, biology, radiation, magnetics, welding, waves and astrophysics. Additional features of the day were an ice cream social and a science talk with KIPAC's Phil Marshall.

Chloe Zubieta welcomed all 254 participants with a discussion of how she came to be a scientist and her own impressions of the field. "The more time I spend in science the more I see how diverse it is," said Zubieta, a staff scientist with Joint Center for Structural Genomics at SSRL. Whether travel takes you to Brazil or to France, as a physicist or as a biologist, "we all share a fundamental curiosity of how things work," she said.

All over the lab, the sounds of laughter sprinkled the atmosphere.

On the quad lawn, participant Justin Lee eagerly explained that the key to the bottle rockets that the GLAST session launched was in the water. "With too much water, not enough pressure builds in the small space. Too little water and the pressure will escape easily with no liftoff," he said.

Across the lab, in Building 26, boys and girls lined up to weld their initials onto a metal plate. They did this by working one-on-one with a technician. "The whole key is that relationship," said event co-organizer Teresa Troxel. "They're in a real workspace using real tools, making a product. They come away with a sense of what that place does."

Meanwhile, Hannah Blomdal celebrated her ninth birthday with a yelp at the magnetics workshop, where kids built an electromagnet and used it in a "shocking" demonstration. "It was really fun," she said. "I got to keep a big yellow suit."

Both Webb and Troxel attribute the success to the volunteer effort. Volunteers outnumbered participants 2 to 1, offering their time to register kids, escort classes, serve food, build supplies and lead workshops.

"Every single kid connected with the event at some point," said Troxel. "We hope that moment captured their imaginations and will translate into a future interest."

—Krista Zala
    SLAC Today, August 17, 2006